[Advaita-l] saakshin

Michael Shepherd michael at shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk
Wed Jan 6 05:37:34 CST 2010

I'd like to pursue with your help 'saakshin', following some very helpful
comments by Sri Subrahmanian; as it seems to me a very practical tool in our
sadhana, and also a point where Eastern and Western thought might usefully

As antahkarana-upahita-caitanya, it is the eternal witness which 'always
produces absolutely valid knowledge'.

So, for instance, it acts as 'self-observer' as we are driving along in the
car full of the joy of being ourself; watches as we read the notice
'Dangerous Bend : Do NOT Overtake' ; watches as buddhi accepts this; or
alternately, in the recklessness of our youth, as we think 'I'm a great
driver and the road's quiet; that doesn't apply to me'...; watches as our
karma provides a clear passage (this time..) or a car-crash..; and
afterwards, commits the experience to chitta and memory, to learn from, or

It would seem that while saakshin is the great gift of consciousness to our
individual lives as experienced, some may pass their whole life oblivious of
saakshin, believing that they are 'the doer'; for some of us, recourse to
saakshin is variable; for some, saakshin is strong by nature or by
discipline or satsanga; and presumably, for the jivanmukta, present in
awareness the whole time as he or she walks through their lives unaffected
by any desire for the fruits of action...

And it's what provides what we bring to satsanga : 'I did a foolish thing
yesterday..' or 'I had a wonderful experience yesterday...'

Western philosophy has discussed this, in Greek as syndaresis and similar
concepts, in Latin as consciousness and conscience. Where it's been
uncertain, is in whether the 'witness' aspect of (saakshin) is separate from
the 'innate knowledge of truth', and whether this is indeed innate or needs
teaching. The greatest theologians such as Aquinas have addressed the
question. And of course, this is where dvaita and advaita, saguna and
nirguna can be perceived in Western teachings such as Christianity, as
dogmatic or mystical.

I appreciate that saakshin may appear in some parampara from Samkya as
purusha, or in Gita 13;23 as upadrashtaa. But as it seems such a vital tool
in sadhana in East and West, I'd be grateful for any further references.


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